Bowling Green residents react to debate over Kentucky Derby anthem

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.- Churchill Downs has decided to play the anthem “My Old Kentucky Home” at the 146th Kentucky Derby after there was some debate over whether or not it should be played. 

Just before 2pm today, Churchill Downs tweeted that it will still be playing the song, but with modifications. They did not specify what the modifications will be but added that it will be preceded with a ‘moment of silence and reflection’. 

The anthem has raised controversy over the years as the song is a Kentucky’s slave lament about being sold down the river. Some said Churchill Downs should not play it with the racial justice protests going on in Louisville and around the country.

WNKY News talked to local Bowling Green residents and got their reaction.

“I think they should play the song, sing the song just like it was written. It’s part of our history. It was written by Stephen Foster in his time, something that was on his heart. History was not written for us to like or dislike. History is there for us to learn from. You know I think we should honor the person who wrote it. Honor what’s good about it and don’t focus on what isn’t good about it. You got things that bother you, then don’t sing that part,” said resident Roger Ryan.

“We say that there’s five seasons here- we have spring, winter, summer, fall and then the Derby, that’s our fifth season. So that makes me really sad if ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ isn’t played,” said resident Janae Wellum. 

“I don’t mind them playing ‘My Old Kentucky Home’…I have no problem with the song as long as the lyrics are changed,” said resident Belinda Tatmon. 

The University of Louisville marching band has played the song almost every year at the Derby since 1936.